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2½-yr postdoc modelling large herbivore impacts on soil carbon in rewilded landscapes

Aarhus University (AU)
Aarhus, Midtjylland (DK)
Closing date
27 Jan 2024

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Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Science
Job Type
Employment - Hours
Full time
Fixed term
The Department of Biology, Aarhus University invites applications for a 2½-year postdoc position to model large herbivore impacts on soil carbon in rewilded landscapes.

This postdoc project is part of the broader program ‘Rewilding as a tool for soil carbon capture and greenhouse gas mitigation’ (WildSoil), funded by the Danish Independent Research Fund (Danmarks Frie Forskningsfond). This program is a collaboration between Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen with Professor Lars Vesterdal as Principal Investigator. Overall, WildSoil aims to evaluate passive and trophic rewilding impacts on the long-term dynamics and persistence of carbon in soils. To do this, we use a combination of mapping, field- and laboratory experiments and modelling to assess whether rewilding contributes to soil C capture and GHG mitigation.

Rewilding is a restoration strategy that aims to allow the biological, chemical and physical processes of an ecosystem to develop into a self-regulating state, where landscape-scale biodiversity and biogeochemistry are mainly governed by natural dynamics. This is achieved either through passive rewilding (essentially land abandonment) or trophic rewilding which aims to accelerate the transition towards self-regulating ecosystems by introducing large animals as ecosystem engineers.

Currently, rewilding is being practiced in large-scale restoration projects across Europe. However, how such rewilding practices will influence soil carbon (especially in terms of quantity and persistence) is an often-overlooked dimension. The WildSoil team collectively addresses this uncertainty through a holistic assessment of rewilding effects on soil organic matter dynamics from the micrometer scale to the ecosystem scale.

Expected start date and duration of employment
This is a fixed-term position from 1. April 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter. The duration of the employment is 2,5 years.

Job description
This postdoc project will use soil and ecosystem models to predict decadal-centennial scale carbon pool development comparing different rewilding scenarios under predicted climate trajectories. The selected candidate will use data on greenhouse gas exchange, soil C stocks, and quantities and distributions of SOM in fractions of varying persistence from rewilding sites sampled by other WildSoil team members to parameterize and potentially modify one or more state-of-the-art soil models (e.g. the Millennial model) to simulate animals’ regulation of SOM mobilization, storage and persistence. Integrating this model into one or more ecosystem models (e.g. LPJ-GUESS) modified to facilitate animal impacts, e.g. on vegetation carbon allocation, the candidate is expected to compare long-term ecosystem C stock trajectories between different rewilding scenarios, and to evaluate the resistance of stocks to future warmer and more extreme climates. The postdoc is expected to contribute ideas and concepts to the project and lead at least two high-quality papers in this research area. It is also expected that the postdoc contributes to the project’s public outreach and teaching, as well as collaborating with other team members, including students, sharing skills, and helping to solve problems in the postdoc’s area of expertise. Ideally, the candidate would be open to spending temporary periods abroad with our collaborators in leading soil and ecosystem modelling environments in Europe and/or North America.

Your profile

Applicants must have a PhD degree preferably in soil science, environmental modelling and/or engineering, or physical geography (although PhD degrees in ecology, environmental science or equivalent will be considered), or have submitted their PhD thesis for assessment before the application deadline.
Required and preferred skills:
  • Soil modelling expertise is a requirement
  • Ecosystem modelling experience is a clear advantage
  • Strong analytical, programming, and computational skills are a necessity.
  • Experience with geospatial analysis and GIS tools is required.
  • A firm understanding of soil carbon dynamics and how various ecosystem properties and climatic factors influence soil processes and carbon cycling is highly desirable.
  • General skills in ecology will be an advantage.
The successful candidate is expected to have strong collaborative skills, proven abilities to publish at a high international level, and have good command of English. International applicants who do not have English as their first language must demonstrate excellent English language writing skills and fluency.

Who we are

Supervisors and collaborators:
The successful candidate will be embedded in the ECONOVO Centre (PI Jens-Christian Svenning) within the Section for Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity (ECOINF) at the Department of Biology at Aarhus University (AU). The co-lead team will consist of Elizabeth le Roux (AU), Jeppe Aagaard Kristensen (AU) and Klaus Steenberg Larsen (University of Copenhagen, KU) with strong additional support from the remaining WildSoil team (Carsten W. Müller, Technical University of Berlin; Jesper R. Christiansen, KU; Lars Vesterdal, KU) and our international collaborators with strong soil and ecosystem modelling expertise (e.g. Katerina Georgiou, Lawrence Livermore Nat’l Lab (USA); Nick Bouskills, Lawrence Berkeley Nat’l Lab (USA); Ben Smith, Western Sydney University (AUS).

ECONOVO is a Center of Excellence focused on improving our insights into emerging novel ecological conditions and how to steer these conditions towards the most positive outcome possible. ECOINF harbors strong expertise in macroecology, remote sensing, and megafauna and vegetation ecology, as well as in ecology and biodiversity broadly. Together ECONOVO and ECOINF constitute an ambitious, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and highly international research community. Multiple local and international collaborators will be included where relevant. Postdocs and PhD students are encouraged to collaborate within the group, across departments, and with other universities.

What we offer

The successful candidate is offered:
  • an ambitious, creative, and friendly research environment, inviting lively, open and critical discussion within and across different fields of research
  • a working environment with teamwork, close working relations, network activities among young scientists and social activities
  • a workplace characterized by professionalism, equality, and a healthy work-life balance
  • access to a well-developed research infrastructure, office space, shared equipment

Place of work and area of employment
The place of employment and work is Center for Ecological Dynamics in a Novel Biosphere (ECONOVO) and Section for Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity (ECOINF), Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 116, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.

About the Department
The Department of Biology hosts research programs and teaching curricula that cover all major biological sub-disciplines. The Department currently employs approximately 140 academic and technical staff and 40 PhD students. The Department hosts BSc and MSc study programs in Biology with about 400 students enrolled as well as a PhD program. The Department offer a vibrant and informal research environment with a long-standing tradition for collaboration with international university partners in the absolute elite.

The working language is English, and we welcome applications from all genders of all backgrounds. Read about the Danish work-life balance, special opportunities for junior researchers, and the services available when relocating to Aarhus University here. The campus of Aarhus University is located in a beautiful park close to the city center (population 300.000).

Life quality and time allocation to family life in Denmark is high, and international investigations usually report that no other nationality score higher in terms of life satisfaction.

You can read more about the Department of Biology here.

Contact Information
Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact: Elizabeth le Roux, (+45 55 25 56 43 or Jeppe Aagaard Kristensen (+45 29 68 34 98

Application procedure
Shortlisting is used. This means that after the deadline for applications – and with the assistance from the assessment committee chairman, and the appointment committee if necessary, – the head of department selects the candidates to be evaluated. All applicants will be notified whether or not their applications have been sent to an expert assessment committee for evaluation. The selected applicants will be informed about the composition of the committee, and each applicant is given the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that concerns him/her self. Once the recruitment process is completed a final letter of rejection is sent to the deselected applicants.

Letter of reference
If you want a referee to upload a letter of reference on your behalf, please state the referee’s contact information when you submit your application. We strongly recommend that you make an agreement with the person in question before you enter the referee’s contact information, and that you ensure that the referee has enough time to write the letter of reference before the application deadline. Unfortunately, it is not possible to ensure that letters of reference received after the application deadline will be taken into consideration.

Formalities and salary range
Natural Sciences refers to the Ministerial Order on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Danish Universities under the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The application must be in English and include a curriculum vitae, degree certificate, a complete list of publications, a statement of future research plans and information about research activities, teaching portfolio and verified information on previous teaching experience (if any). Guidelines for applicants can be found here.

Appointment shall be in accordance with the collective labour agreement between the Danish Ministry of Taxation and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. Further information on qualification requirements and job content may be found in the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff at Danish Universities.

Salary depends on seniority as agreed between the Danish Ministry of Taxation and the Confederation of Professional Associations.

Aarhus University’s ambition is to be an attractive and inspiring workplace for all and to foster a culture in which each individual has opportunities to thrive, achieve and develop. We view equality and diversity as assets, and we welcome all applicants.

Research activities will be evaluated in relation to actual research time. Thus, we encourage applicants to specify periods of leave without research activities, in order to be able to subtract these periods from the span of the scientific career during the evaluation of scientific productivity.

Aarhus University offers a broad variety of services for international researchers and accompanying families, including relocation service and career counselling to expat partners. Read more here. Please find more information about entering and working in Denmark here.

Aarhus University also offers a Junior Researcher Development Programme targeted at career development for postdocs at AU. You can read more about it here.

At the Faculty of Natural Science at Aarhus University, we strive to support our scientific staff in their career development. We focus on competency development and career clarification and want to make your opportunities transparent. On our website, you can find information on all types of scientific positions, as well as the entry criteria we use when assessing candidates. You can also read more about how we can assist you in your career planning and development.

The application must be submitted via Aarhus University’s recruitment system, which can be accessed under the job advertisement on Aarhus University's website.

Deadline: 01 February 2024

Aarhus University

Aarhus University is an academically diverse and research-intensive university with a strong commitment to high-quality research and education and the development of society nationally and globally. The university offers an inspiring research and teaching environment to its 38,000 students (FTEs) and 8,300 employees, and has an annual revenues of EUR 935 million. Learn more at

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